A very broadly propagated misconception is that the ‘blowing upon” referred to in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 2:7), was supposedly the ‘giving’ of a soul to a pre-fabricated, earthen, inanimate statue of a man.
This cacodoxy (heretical opinion) has its roots in ancient Hellenistic ‘dualist’ anthropology, where the soul was considered as something pre-existent to the body, given that –by nature– the soul is timeless and immortal. This ‘life-giving’ to a body and soul within a time frame is idolatrous and absolutely anti-Christian, as is every other dimension generally pertaining to body and soul.
«Απόβλητος επίσης ο παρ’ αμφοτέρων λόγος… μήτε κατά την ελληνικήν απάτην… μηδ’ αυ πάλιν οιονεί πήλινον ανδριάντα προδιαπλασθέντα τω λόγω τον άνθρωπον, τούτου ένεκα την ψυχήν γίνεσθαι λέγειν… Ενός όντος του ανθρώπου… μίαν αυτού και κοινήν της συστάσεως την αρχήν υποτίθεσθαι, ως αν μη αυτός εαυτού προγενέστερός τε και νεώτερος γένοιτο».
Translation of Greek text: «Both aspects are unacceptable… we should not believe, according to the Hellenistic fallacy… nor that God created man by His word as an earthen statue, for the sake of which, the soul was afterwards created… because man is one, just as the beginning of his existence is one and simultaneous, so that it may not be said that man was created before his self was created.” (Saint Gregory of Nyssa, PG 44, 229-237)
The Fathers persistently stress that man was created whole, from the moment of conception, and that neither is his soul pre-existent to his body, nor is his body pre-existent to his soul. They furthermore stress that the creation of Adam is repeated in each of us, in the same way, and by the same Hand.
«Η χειρ δε η πλάσασα τότε τον Αδάμ, και αύτη και νυν και αεί τους μετ’ εκείνον πάλιν πλάττει και διασυνίστησι».
Translation of Greek text: «….as for the hand that had once shaped Adam, it is the same one that -now and forever- also shapes and constitutes those after him.” (Saint Athanasios, PG 25, 429).
«Ημείς δε την μέσην οδόν ως βασιλικήν κατά τους Πατέρας ημών οδεύοντες ούτε προϋπαρξιν ούτε μεθύπαρξιν ψυχής ή σώματος συνύπαρξιν δε μάλλον φαμεν»
Translation of Greek text: «For we, who travel the middle path as a royal path, just like our Fathers did, do not proclaim the pre-existence or the post-existence of the body or the soul; rather the co-existence of both.” (Saint Maximus, PG 91, 1325D).
What, in fact, was the “blowing upon”, that we read in the New Testament? “Jesus blew upon them, and said to them: ‘Receive Holy Spirit’” (John, 20:22).
«Ανακαινίζων τον άνθρωπον ο Κύριος, και ην απώλεσε χάριν εκ του εμφυσήματος του Θεού, ταύτην πάλιν αποδιδούς, εμφυσήσας εις το πρόσωπον των μαθητών, τι φησί; “Λάβετε Πνεύμα Άγιον”».
Translation of Greek text: «When renovating mankind -which had lost the grace it had received through God’s blowing upon it- the Lord restored it again, by blowing upon the persons/countenances (*) of the disciples, by saying what? ‘Receive ye Holy Spirit’ ” (St. Basil the Great, 140D).
Whatever the “blowing upon” was in the New Testament, it was exactly the same as the one in the Old Testament: It was the Grace and the Energy of the Holy Spirit. Just as the apostles weren’t earthen statues, but living and moving people, so was the person who was “blown upon” in the Old Testament. This Grace of the Holy Spirit was that which was lost through man’s disobedience, and was restored to the Apostles by our Lord. The Lord did not give the Apostles a soul; they already had souls, just as Adam did. He gave them something else, which made their souls “living souls”. Just as He did with Adam.
«Let the dead bury their dead » Christ had said. (Matthew 8:22). These “dead” were people with souls and movement, but who did not have the Holy Spirit, which «invigorates» (Corinthians II, 3:6).
«By the Holy Spirit, every soul becomes alive». This Grace of the Holy Spirit is given to a whole person, body and soul, and it hallows and vivifies him.
«Ενεφύσησε γαρ εις το πρόσωπον αυτού, τουτέστι μοίράν τινα της αυτού Χάριτος εναπέθετο τω ανθρώπω, ίνα τω ομοίως επιγινώσκη το όμοιον»
Translation of the Greek text: «He (=God) blew upon his (=Adam’s) person/countenance (*); meaning that a certain degree of His (God’s) Grace was deposited in man, so that the ‘likeness’ (=man) could acknowledge its ‘likeness’ (=God). (Vasileios the Great, PG 29, 449B).
Let’s not forget the words also that God spoke to Adam: “On the day that you eat of this (=the tree), you shall die”. But Adam lived on, for many more years after that! His “death” therefore was obviously a spiritual one. Adam became a “dead soul”, after losing the Holy Spirit that was given to him when God “blew upon” him the breath of life. Reversely, this “blowing” of the Holy Spirit was what had made him a living soul.
According to the Fathers, man is not only flesh, nor only soul. He is a psychosomatic whole. In this way, it is understandable how a dead body cannot be considered a human being, just as a soul without a body cannot be considered a human being.
Father Hierotheos Vlachos in his book “Life after death” (published 1994), page 54, writes: “Man is a psychosomatic being, which means that the soul doesn’t comprise the whole man, just as the body doesn’t comprise the whole man.”
Of course the holy Fathers are in full accord on the above, as apparent in a multitude of their writings, samples of which we present herebelow:
According to Saint Gregory Palamas: “..the verdict for spiritual death – to the actualization of which disobedience led us – according to the justice of the creator…” (Natural, Theological, Ethical and Practical Chapters, Migne , PG vol.150, p.1157-1160)
Tatianus writes: “The one who was created in the image of God and was separated from that more powerful (Holy) Spirit, becomes a mortal.” (Tatianus to Hellenes, 7)
Also according to Saint Irenaeus:
“Separation from God is death” (Saint Irenaeus, Remonstration E’ XXVII)
“Therefore, they –whomsoever they may be- who do not have whatever saves and leads into life, shall be called ‘flesh and blood’, because they are the ones who do not have the Spirit of God in them. Such people are referred to by the Lord as ‘dead’, as He had stated: “Let the dead bury their own dead”, because they do not have the Spirit which vivifies man.” (Saint Irenaeus, Remonstration E’ XI, 1)
“Man (and not just a part of him), was created in the likeness of God. Now, both the soul and the Spirit may certainly constitute part of man, but not the entire man, because the perfect man consists of a combination and a union of the soul that has accepted the Spirit of the Father, together with that fleshy nature which was formed in the image of God.” (Saint Irenaeus, Remonstration E’ VI, 1)
According to Saint Vasileios: “The more that he kept away from life, the more he approached towards death. God is Life. Deprivation of life is death. Thus Adam, by moving away from God, gave rise to death.” (Vasileios the Great: “Homily, that God was not the cause of evils.” 7, Migne P.G., 31, 345).
The above writings by the holy fathers are appropriately summarized by father John Romanides, as follows: “If those who don’t have Holy Spirit still live, they are nonetheless dead…. The soul’s death is its separation from the vivifying energy of the Holy Spirit.” (The Original Sin, page 119. Published 1957).
But let’s take a look at the passage of Genesis 2:7 more carefully:
“And God created man, earth from the earth, and He blew upon his person/countenance (*) the breath of life, and man became a living soul” .
According to this passage, who did God create? “MAN”. And into whom did He blow the breath of life? Into “him”, in other words, “MAN”. And who “became a living soul”? “MAN”. What we must note here is that the term “man” pre-existed, even before the “blowing upon” him by God. If “man” were biologically dead at the moment that God blew His breath upon him, then the Holy Bible would not have characterized him as “man”!
Saint Seraphim of Sarov said to his pupil Motovilov:
“We have become extremely careless in the task of our salvation. And this is the reason that many of the passages of the Holy Bible are not taken into consideration in the appropriate way. And this, because we do not ask for God’s Grace, nor do we allow His Grace –on account of our haughtiness- to penetrate our souls, and consequently, we don’t have the true enlightenment that God sends to all those souls that hunger and thirst for His justice.”
Here is an example of what is meant here:
Many people interpret the Bible passage that says: «And God created man, earth from the earth, and He blew upon his person/countenance (*) the breath of life, and man became a living soul» (Genesis 2:7) as meaning that until that moment, Adam had no soul and human spirit, but was only fleshy, having been shaped from the mud of the earth. This interpretation is incorrect. Because, although the Lord and God may have created Adam from the mud of the earth, He did present him as a composition of body and soul, hence the apostle Paul’s assurance that: “….the entirety of our spirit, our body and our soul be preserved immaculately, during the (second) presence of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Thessalonians I, 5:23)
All three components of our existence were created from the mud of the earth. However, Adam was NOT shaped into a dead creation by God; He was created a living being, similar to the other living creatures made by God that lived on the earth. But, he had something of fundamental significance: If, after having created Adam, God had not blown upon his person/countenance (*) “the breath of life”, in other words, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, and is sent forth into the world by the Son, then Adam -albeit the most perfect amongst God’s creations, and the crown of all terrestrial creations- would have existed, devoid of the Holy Spirit Who raises mankind and equates him with God. Adam would have been exactly the same as all the other creations that have a body, a soul and a spirit. “according to their species”, but without the Holy Spirit inside them.
When the Lord blew upon the person/countenance (*) of Adam the breath of life, then, according to the words of Moses, “Adam became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). In other words, Adam became similar to God, immortal like Him, forever and ever, eternal.
We have here a clear Patristic voice, which assures us that:
1. –The usual explanation by contemporary Christians that Adam was created by God like a clay statue or a corpse and that the breath that God blew upon his countenance was supposedly Adam’s soul, originates from the reality that “we have slipped away from the simplicity of the original Christian knowledge”, because “the pride in our minds does not allow the Grace of God to reside within our souls, and that is why we don’t have true enlightenment by the Lord” and instead, we conjure up “myths”.
2. –Before receiving the breath of God, Adam was a living being -like all the other animals on earth- complete with all his natural characteristics, possessing a spirit, a mind, a heart, just like all the animals, each and every one according to its species.
3. –The breath of God does not contain any natural, biological or psychological inference; it is not one of the biological components of a human being. It is the uncreated Energy of the Holy Spirit, given to mankind by the Christ.
This breath of God –the uncreated Energy of the Holy Spirit- is the same as the one that is implanted by the Church like a seed in Christians, during their Holy Baptism, which, if man’s free will permits, will sprout holiness and bring forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
That which makes man entirely different to all other animals, is that he –unlike the animals- has the ability to receive the energy of the Holy Spirit. That which gives man this ability, however, is not his biological superiority, or the superiority of his mind. This ability that Man has to receive –if he so wishes- the energy of the Holy Spirit, is not given to him by anything natural; it is only because man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27); it is because he is a person. (Genesis 2:7).
“He blew upon his countenance the breath of life”. A person can never be a lifeless thing. Corpses or statues cannot be persons. Adam was a person, because he was made in the image of the incarnate Person of the Logos of God.
Holy Spirit, forceful breath of the Pentecost, blowing upon. The blowing upon Adam and the Apostles may be precedent chronically to the Pentecost, but it is through it, that the Holy Spirit is given.
The protoplasts were «attired in the glory from above….. the glory from above covered them, rather than any garment” (Saint John the Chrysostom, PG 53, 123 and 131). The “glory from above” is naturally not a created thing; therefore it cannot be a soul. It is the uncreated glory of the Holy Spirit, which elevates man, “to the likeness”. This uncreated glory – the “likeness” – can be lost by man, or never be acquired by him. But the “image” we can never lose, because we acquire it at birth. «The divine likeness cast aside, the image we did not lose» (Saint Gregory Palamas PG 150, 1148). We are human beings, because we are images of Christ. This is because Christ is God and human, bearing our flesh. This Flesh, which is seated at the right of the Father, upon the throne of Godhood, is the glory of mankind and its identity; it is the source of all good things, which are given to us without discrimination, but it is up to our free will, if we embrace them or reject them.
Adam did not turn back into a clay statue when (after his disobedience) he lost the Grace of God’s breath. He did however realize his nakedness (Genesis 3:7), and thenceforth began to cover it, with terrestrial substitutes of that Glory which had previously covered him, just like mankind does, to this day. Without the Holy Spirit, human beings are “soul-beings, lacking the Spirit” (Jude, 19). A spiritual and perfect person is the one who has inside him the Grace of the Holy Spirit (Saint Irenaeus, “Remonstrations”, 5, 6:1). This divine Energy permeates man who receives it through and through, even as far as his kidneys and his heart and his bone marrow. The Holy Spirit, through the Flesh of the God-man, inhabits our own flesh. The Logos of God bestowed on the flesh (that He had borrowed from us) the energy of His godhood, thus making all of mankind receptive to the ‘divine fire’.
We are not image of God because we received the blowing of His breath; We received the blowing of God’s breath BECAUSE we are images. We are –from the moment of our creation- the torches that will most assuredly light up, if we ever wish to bring them in contact with the Unsetting Light, and, once lit, will never be extinguished, provided we safeguard them from the violent gusts of the world: “Do not extinguish the Spirit.”
(*) In the Septuagint text of Genesis, God is mentioned as “blowing upon” the “πρόσωπον” of Adam. The Greek word «πρόσωπον» has a dual meaning: it can literally mean “countenance” or “face”, but it can also mean the “persona” or the “person” (for example the Persons of the Holy Trinity.)
In this article, an entire chapter from edition No.89 – Summer 2004 of the magazine “Epignosis” was inserted.